The purchasing agent is responsible for obtaining the most cost-effective bids for goods and services. Find out why and everything you need to know about this job.
When a company needs to purchase goods or services, they don't just settle for the first vendor they find. They want to get the best deal possible, even if it takes time and effort. That's where the purchasing agent comes in. A successful purchasing agent's responsibilities are to find cost-effective bids for goods and services. To do this, he must know the market and have strong negotiation skills.
In this article, we'll discuss what a purchasing agent does and some of the key skills necessary to be one. We'll also cover how to become a purchasing agent and the problems they commonly encounter in the field.
Purchasing agents are professionals who aim to get the highest value for their clients' or employers' money when procuring goods or services. They research vendors, compare prices and negotiate contracts on behalf of their clients with the ultimate goal, which is to ensure that their client gets the best deal possible.
They are also responsible for reviewing the quality of the purchased products, maintaining supplier relationships, and ensuring compliance with contractual agreements.
Purchasing Skills Required by Purchasing Agent
Natural and superb negotiation skills
An excellent purchasing agent should have three primary skills: first, they should develop natural and superb negotiation skills, as they will often be haggling with vendors over prices.
Most vendors wouldn't give in easily, so a purchasing agent must be assertive yet tactful to get the best price possible. The second is a strong organization and documentation skills.
Careful enough and have a certain financial and sales ability
Second, they should have a keen eye for detail since they will need to carefully review contracts before signing them on behalf of their clients or emploers. All the clauses and provisions must be examined to avoid any legal problems down the road. The purchasing agent must make sure their client isn't being taken advantage of.
Most employers require associate degrees in business, finance and sales leadership. Sometimes, a college degree is enough. Employment agencies usually provide one-year training for buyers and sellers to complete various procurement tasks, including negotiating with suppliers and assessing inventory levels, calculating the gross margin of the entire procurement chain, being able to read financial reports and identifying the authenticity of suppliers. Attributes (factory, trader, sourcing agent or trade fraud), as well as basic knowledge of international logistics.
Sensitive enough to the market and products
Lastly, purchasing agents should have a firm grasp of the market and the different vendors to get the best deals. They should also be aware of market conditions, new products, and services that might benefit their clients and vendors willing to give the best prices for these items.
Take a client of our company as an example, when the price of natural gas was about to rise in Sweden during the COVID-19 epidemic and the war between Russia and Ukraine in 2022, our Swedish client approached RUIZHI Sourcing. urgently purchased nearly 10000 electric blankets. 2 months later, the purchase price of electric blankets increased by 60%, and our client saved a lot of money. This is the value created by a purchasing agent with rich purchasing experience.
There are multiple certifications that a purchasing agent can get, but they are optional in order to practice. The most common certification is the Certified Purchasing Manager Certification (CPM) offered by the Institute for Supply Management.
There is also the Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM) provided by the American Purchasing Society, as well as the Certified Public Procurement Officer (CPPO) and the Certified Federal Contracts Manager (CFCM), both offered by the National Contract Management Association,if you want to learn more about these certifications for purchasing agent, please click here.
So if you want to work full-time in purchasing agent, what is its career path? Take a closer look at the picture below.
Purchasing Agent salary rate and requirements
The salary of a purchasing agent depends on the industry and company size. According to recent statistics, the annual wage for purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents ranged from $55,000 to $75,220 in US as of October 2022.
This salary rate may seem enough, but keep in mind that purchasing agents are responsible for large sums of money and must have the knowledge to perform for their clients. The requirements for becoming a purchasing manager vary depending on the company. Still, most would look for someone with at least a bachelor's degree in business administration, supply chain management, or any related field.
Some companies would require a specific amount of experience in the field, although it is only sometimes necessary as long as the candidate has the right attitude and work ethic.
Problems often encountered in purchasing agent work
Generally, purchasing agents must be careful when dealing with vendors as there is always a potential for fraud. This can happen in multiple ways, such as when a vendor overcharges for their products or services, fails to deliver the promised goods or services, or provides inferior products.
More specifically, here are some problems that purchasing agents might encounter:
1. The demand of the demand department is not apparent
The inconclusive market often leads to overstocking or stocking the wrong items, which can be costly for the company. The demand must be carefully analyzed to make the right purchase decisions.
Suppose there needs to be more coordination between the purchasing department and other departments within the company. In that case, it would often result in frustration, confusion, and delays in getting the needed products or services. The purchasing managers must maintain good communication with all the other departments to avoid any issues.
2. The demand is very hasty, skipping the procurement process.
Skipping the procurement process tends to overpay for goods or services and end up signing bad contracts. For example, you skipped the sample confirmation process, or did not select multiple suppliers to bid, or did not confirm to do drop or collision experiments on the overall package. This will waste the company's money and put them at legal risk if the vendor decides to take advantage of the situation. It is imperative for purchasing managers to follow all the necessary steps to ensure that they are getting nothing but the best value for their money.
3. Under external pressure (superior) to designate suppliers.
If the purchasing agent is under external pressure, there is a good chance that corruption and kickbacks may enter the negotiation, or worse, they may sign contracts without proper discussion. This can harm the company's finances. Hence, the purchasing manager needs to resist any external pressure to ensure that they make the best decisions for the company.
4. Purchase products that are not familiar with areas.
When the purchasing department is not familiar with the products and services that they are buying, they often end up purchasing and overspending on inferior products. This is why the purchasing department must conduct thorough research and feasibility studies before making purchase decisions. Please do not rely on the vendor's information alone, as they often have their agenda.
To purchase electronic products, you would generally choose a manufacturer in Shenzhen, China if you require medium- and high-end quality. If you want cheap electronics, you might choose a factory in Yiwu, China, or Vietnam could be a good choice.
Just like we do sourcing agents in China, there are differences in product areas that different regional purchasing agents are good at. Why Yiwu purchasing agents set up offices in Yiwu and Shenzhen purchasing agents set up offices in Shenzhen because of the industries in the product areas they are good at bringing closer to them.
5. Exchange rate losses are uncontrollable.
Fluctuations in the exchange rate can often lead to losses for the company and missed opportunities to save more. If purchasing agents are not careful, they might end up paying more than they should for products or services, given the unpredictability of the exchange rate. To avoid this, keep track of the exchange rate consistently and make purchases when the rates are favorable.
For example, Apr,2022 USD / RMB is 1:6.38,but at Nov,2022,the exchage rate chang to 1:7.32. If you make a long-term purchase contract as a purchasing manager in April, you may save 14% of the purchasing cost for your company. If I were the boss, I would be very happy to have a purchasing manager like you.
How to become a purchasing agent?
There is no one specific path to becoming a purchasing agent. As mentioned, many companies would prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree in business administration, supply chain management, or any related field. But this career doesn't only revolve around these qualifications.
One may jump from being a purchasing assistant to a purchasing agent by taking on more responsibilities over time and increasing their knowledge of the field. They may also apply as purchasing agents, given their specific experience in the area.
This is also true if an applicant has shown exceptional analytical and multitasking skills that enable them to negotiate the best deals for the company. It would be more than necessary if they could establish good relationships with vendors and suppliers, as this would come in handy when trying to get discounts or better terms.
There are also certification programs that can help enhance one's qualifications.
The CPSM credential is recognized worldwide and can help purchase agents stand out from other candidates. To be eligible for the CPSM, candidates must have at least three years' professional experience in supply management and pass an exam.
APICS also offers the Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) program, designed to help professionals improve their production and inventory management skills. The CPIM program has two exams; candidates must have three years' experience in production and inventory management to be eligible.
According to the job description of purchasing manager, Purchasing agents may also consider pursuing a master's degree in business administration or supply chain management. While not required, a higher degree can give candidates an edge over other job seekers.
Purchasing agents play a vital role in each company as their responsibilities are procuring the products and services that the company needs. Given the importance of their job, it is crucial for purchasing agents to be knowledgeable and well-experienced to make sound decisions that would benefit the company. They should also be able to resist any external pressure and always put the company's best interests first.
Companies should also provide purchasing agents with the necessary resources to help them do their job efficiently (including professional job training). As with all other careers, continuing training and professional development opportunities would also benefit the purchasing agent and the company in the future.
As a China professional purchasing agent, RUIZHI Sourcing should have the final say on this topic, because we know what skills and traits a professional purchasing agent should possess. If you have any confusion in recruiting purchasing agents, you can contact us.
FAQs about Purchasing Agent
What makes a great purchasing agent?
Some qualities that make a great purchasing agent are the ability to multitask, detail-oriented, excellent negotiation skills, and good people skills.
What should I look for a purchasing agent?
When looking for a purchasing agent, you should consider their education, experience, and certifications. Finding someone who has shown or has the potential to exhibit the above-mentioned skills and qualities is also essential.
Purchasing agent vs buyer?
The main difference between a purchasing agent and a buyer is that purchasing agents are usually responsible for procuring goods and services for the company. In contrast, buyers are generally responsible for managing the company's inventory.
On a daily basis, a purchasing agent would be responsible for negotiating deals with suppliers, placing purchase orders, and ensuring that goods and services were delivered on time. On the other hand, a buyer would be responsible for managing the company's stock, forecasting future demand, and reordering inventory when necessary.
Purchasing agent vs procurement?
The main difference between a purchasing agent and a procurement is that purchasing agents are usually responsible for procuring products and services for the company, while procurement is the process of acquiring goods and services.
Purchasing agents would be responsible for identifying the goods and services that the company needs, negotiating deals with suppliers, placing purchase orders, and ensuring that the goods and services are delivered on time. On the other hand, procurement is the process of acquiring goods and services, which includes finding suppliers, negotiating contracts, and managing relationships with suppliers.
The Co-founder of Ruizhi Sourcing. With 10 years of experience in the field of sourcing in China, we help 1k+ clients import from China to Amazon FBA or shopify.